The bitter feud between the Russian Ministry of Defence and Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner Group’s financier, has intensified, with tens of thousands of Russian fighters reportedly dying in Bakhmut, the Institute for Study of War (ISW) reports.

The Russian MoD is delaying its progress in the region because it has prioritised Wagner’s slow demise on the Bakhmut battleground, it is claimed. The ISW says Putin is “seizing the opportunity to deliberately expend both elite and convict Wagner forces in Bakhmut in an effort to weaken Prigozhin and derail his ambitions for greater influence in the Kremlin”.

The conflict started when Prigozhin initiated a smear campaign against influential military leaders in Russia, including Sergey Shoigu, the defence minister, and Valery Gerasimov, the head of the Russian general staff.

The ISW asserts that, now that Wagner has failed to demonstrate success, Russian MoD officials are taking advantage of the situation to undermine Prigozhin and thwart his plans to gain more clout in the Kremlin by purposefully using both elite and Wagner-convict forces in Bakhmut. Vladimir Putin was likely frightened by Prigozhin’s political aspirations in October 2022, which might have paved the way for the Russian military leadership to regain more power. These circumstances might have posed a danger to Prigozhin, who stepped up his criticism of the Russian MoD and widened the rift between the Wagner forces and the military hierarchy.


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